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Immunopharmacology. 1999 May;42(1-3):23-30.

Regulation of complement activation by C-reactive protein.

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Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque 87131, USA.


C-reactive protein (CRP) is an acute-phase serum protein and a mediator of innate immunity. CRP binds to microbial polysaccharides and to ligands exposed on damaged cells. Binding of CRP to these substrates activates the classical complement pathway leading to their uptake by phagocytic cells. Complement activation by CRP is restricted to C1, C4, C2 and C3 with little consumption of C5-9. Surface bound CRP reduces deposition of and generation of C5b-9 by the alternative pathway and deposition of C3b and lysis by the lectin pathway. These activities of CRP are the result of recruitment of factor H resulting in regulation of C3b on bacteria or erythrocytes. Evidence is presented for direct binding of H to CRP. H binding to CRP or C3b immobilized on microtiter wells was demonstrated by ELISA. Attachment of CRP to a surface was required for H binding. H binding to CRP was not inhibited by EDTA or phosphocholine, which inhibit ligand binding, but was inhibited by a 13 amino acid CRP peptide. The peptide sequence was identical to the region of CRP that showed the best alignment to H binding peptides from Streptococcus pyogenes (M6) and Neisseria gonorrhoeae (Por1A). The results suggest that CRP bound to a surface provides secondary binding sites for H resulting in greater regulation of alternative pathway amplification and C5 convertases. Complement activation by CRP may help limit the inflammatory response by providing opsonization with minimal generation of C5a and C5b-9.

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